Dubai: Zulfiqar Bukhari, Special Assistant to Prime Minister Imran Khan for Overseas Pakistanis and Human Resources Development, has said that the Pakistan government will soon introduce a number of incentives, including a pension scheme, for expatriates.
Bukhari arrived in the UAE on Wednesday on a fact-finding mission to gain first-hand information about the issues facing Pakistanis expatriates in the country. He met the Pakistani diaspora who carried out philanthropic activities and made huge contributions to help Pakistanis in the UAE during the prevailing COVID-19 crisis.
Meeting with UAE Minister
Bukhari held a meeting with Nasser Bin Thani Al Hameli, UAE Minister of Human Resources and Emiratisation, in Dubai on Thursday. During the meeting, he thanked the minister for all support provided to repatriate stranded Pakistanis. He also raised the issue of Pakistanis who have lost jobs and those who have been sent on paid or unpaid leave. “I am trying my best to find a solution to get all those people back on jobs,” he told reporters. Pakistan Ambassador Ghulam Dastgir and Consul General Ahmed Amjad Ali were also present.
Bukhari, who supervised the repatriation of stranded Pakistanis from around the world, also met members of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) — Imran Khan’s political party — to discuss matters related to overseas Pakistanis in the wake of COVID-19 pandemic. Stranded Pakistanis in the UAE were generally not happy with the way repatriation process was handled, especially the high cost of tickets. Social media accounts and complaints on the ministry’s website were inundated with complaints from the expatriates in the UAE.
36,000 Pakistanis lost jobs
During a media interaction at the Pakistan Consulate General in Dubai, Bukhari revealed that some 36,000 Pakistanis have lost jobs in the UAE since January this year. “Around 52,000 Pakistanis have lost jobs in Gulf countries and this includes 36,000 in the UAE,” he said. However, he noted that the number was not significant compared to the large number of expatriates working in the Gulf countries.
Social media bashing
“I know there were a lot of problems and our community also suffered due to economic situation and job losses. We also face bashing on social media but we did not give up and tried our best to help them with limited resources,” he said while regretting inconvenience to anyone in trouble.
“Our government has sent 970,000 people abroad for work during the last 18 months while more than 102,000 Pakistanis with completed work visa process are currently waiting in Pakistan to fly abroad, mainly to Gulf countries, for jobs. They will hopefully be at work as soon as the COVID-19 restrictions are lifted,” he was of the optimistic view.
A journalist also drew Bukhari’s attention towards the plight of hundreds of jobless Pakistanis thronging the consulate building. He advised him that instead of meeting the ‘elite’ class, he should meet those in need and help them.
Bukhari, who holds a British passport, said that having dual nationality was not a crime in Pakistan. “We, the overseas Pakistanis, are the bloodline of our country and any attempt to isolate us will be foiled,” he said, adding that Prime Minister Imran Khan always stands behind Pakistani expatriates and has given special instructions to him to provide all possible help to them.
Incentive package for expatriates
Following Imran Khan’s instructions, the Ministry of Overseas Pakistanis and Human Resource Development has prepared a comprehensive plan to help expatriates who lost jobs and went back to Pakistan. “More than 50,000 jobless people have so far registered on our APP. We are helping them improve their skills but also providing job opportunities in different sectors,” he said.
Bukhari said that Pakistan would soon launch a package of incentives under ‘Digital Banking’ programme. They would be included in the pension scheme and health insurance schemes.
The Pakistan government is also planning to give three months tax holidays to overseas Pakistanis who want to import heavy machinery to their country. “We have received reports that a large number of Pakistani businessmen, especially those who are involved in construction industry, want to import machinery from the UAE and other Gulf countries. We will facilitate them to enable them to start their businesses back home,” he said.
His attention as also drawn to ‘corruption’ and allegations of misappropriation of welfare and charity funds during the booking of tickets for special repatriation flights operated by the PIA. He promised to take action against all those responsible.